Bad Air

Bad Air, is an exploration of the historical accounts + folklore of the 14th century outbreak of the bubonic plague in Europe.

Initial research uncovered some unthinkable practices implemented during that time period. From a poetic standpoint, it's really quite fascinating how in a time of fear from the threat of death, we can do such horrible things to one another. This series is an attempt to use language to reflect on the negative behavior that came in tow with the disease.

  [ photography by Amy Miller ]

  photo by  Amy Miller

photo by Amy Miller

Love + Desertion

solitude by candles snap
the air in subtle moods
discoloring the bending motion
between two lovers in a room

when it happened she knew
not what to say nor do
so instead she stood in silence
manipulating attitudes

an elusive breeze brought
the death of waiting in the air
as she covered up to ward
off waves of violent bouts
of anxiety silenced in her throat

a glance cast back at her lover
lying there, his skin fading into
pale and ghastly shades
contrasted by the black
intensified protrusions
emerging from the creases
of his weakening body

he fell quickly into darkness
far from the flame
her love losing its luster
in the grim reality of death
she already knew what would
become of him

fear is like a bullet from the barrel
so quick you can’t escape
in the hours of the early morning
he called out her name

“I’m going for the doctor”
was all that she could say
then she walked
out of the house,
and kept walking away

photo by Amy Miller

Death Fog

it came by way of a
foamy miasma, a mix
of gas across the sea
tuned to kill with equality
churning like a wheel
with twisted spokes
bowed into winged-beings

the lesions drained of
absolution, the fool’s
maker on the rise
apprehensive waiting
for when time meets
no time

waxing figures melted
by the bedside,
an hourglass wound down
one breathless moment
to lift a dying refrain
which drives these weathered
carcasses slinking back
into the lifeless womb

the interloper sheds
some skin beneath the
dusky light of homespun
tales, peeling back
with retribution to lay on
shades of slow decay

ley lines reeling
sitting by the edge of the sea
uncovering the wistful
blips of meaning
in a fog intent on billowing
like some sick siege machine

to tell them you misunderstood
things aren’t what they seem
and maybe in two hundred years
someone will rewrite history

photo by Amy Miller

Inside the Walls of Kaffa

corpses flung from the trebuchet
lie in waiting beyond the stone
when the people of the city came
to dump the masses in the ocean

death the equalizer
democratic, we shall see
that when we’re even, heaven
opens up to let the workers
of iniquity deliver their decree

anything they’d understand
to cry out Lord, please hear our plea
of subjugations unto nature
from the coil of slight bodies

the toil of mass induction
panicked sellers taken leave
spreading out along the sea ports
from Crimea to Capri

they don’t have to choose
between death + no destruction
for when fear grabs hold of principal
there’s a loss of a skilled
thought process

shameless shaking below the deck
sailing across the channel
to an unknown end
away from sorrow toward
desire of the free,
unlimited breadth of spiritual
ecstasy to exist as is

photo by Amy Miller

City of Dis

at the quiet end of a corner
where many people pass,
a man sips his coffee with
his eyes trained on the glass
a stout reflection stiffened at the neck
the daily paper unfolded in his lap
the obituary section steals
his glance and he smirks in bitter
ruthlessness at those left dead
before him, slipping in
and out of different states
of consciousness

there’s a wailing of troubled
voices vibrating like insanity
a tenebrous shadow manifests
to ignite an internal attack
and though he cleans his plate
reaching for the check
he knows somewhere
in a fathomless depth
that there is no end
to endlessness

for some time now he’s
spun a dance like delusion
of darkness living in him
and when the call of night
comes to suffocate the sleeper
it torments the intersection
of bodies before the light
that creep along the edges
to kill the righteous

hidden in the swallow
of sorrow, the reality
of nonsense brings him shame

over the rainbow, out
the café and down the street
he peers through
small-framed windows
on a search for warning signs
that tingle when pulsation races
through his fingers
like the membrane of
a moment that defines
how it hurts to be human

moving through the city
in a casted role to be the viewer
inside the bedroom, the
prisoner considered
an ever-present sleeper in
the wake of a terrifying dream

he once heard someone speak
in tongues, pulling power
with a fall from grace
fighting against the circles
of fate with carefully
constructed phrasing
calling out His name

but there is no end
to endlessness
the dials connect
and spin
there is no end
to endlessness
infection comes again

photo by Amy Miller

The Flagellant

the self-repentant suffers
slog along in spellbound
crowds to escape their health
and quell the dreadful distress of

three-prong leather whips
a demonstration in the despoliation
of fear, to liquidate the evil shell of
sin bubbling within lymph nodes
beneath the skin

mortification of the flesh,
a scourge in every hand,
tormented by the wrath of
the fallen angel’s swift descent

they travel far from chapels
collapsing on the ground
flailing in the thorns of crucifixion
and bones of the damned

a public display of atonement
voyeurism unchecked
sweeping through every city
their tri-tails dragging in the wind

so violently they shake
plucking people from a mood
of horrific apprehension
feasting on apocalyptic food

mystery of the final moment
what the welted lacerations
bring, savoring fidelity
from under cover of
the second coming

the trumpets sound delirium
of psychotic, panicked grief
stricken down by the awful
scent of boil-ridden disease

a statement with four corners
fixed by broken belts of wood,
fooled by strength that pulled the weight
of a crude remembrance misconstrued

in the calculated dirt lines drawn
to delineate the final sketch
of a predetermined afterlife
beyond the shadow of death

photo by Amy Miller

Hair Back

tunneling through straw
at the curbside, ridden
I can see it in your sooty eyes
it has befallen this city

it will come for me too
this sickness entangled
in the disengaged air
windrose, the root at peak
soon they will be crying over me

for who can remember
when the rope knotted
like a noose swung slow
around our necks
begging the silence to begin

ring the kindred spirits
let them loose from the den
of sin and keep a finger pointed
at the mirror within

kill me on this mattress
I'm alone with the rest
decrepit and bleeding
waiting for death

the streets know more about this
than we could ever imagine
in the sorrow of the hands
that sweep around the public dial

a recycled flat deficiency
with many ways to burn
and leave, pandering to
the exhibition of life with no reprieve

we slip small tokens of God
unprepared into our pocket chasms
and suck down floral residue
full of indecision

it's the reign of darkness
the siege of disease
its compounding swill of ignorance,
the rest of me

I lie still in the wake of repetition
and turn the other cheek to
episodic lessons
left in time to be touched
by the never and enough


Gaze On

Art thou pale for weariness
Of climbing Heaven, and gazing on the earth,
Wandering companionless
Among the stars that have a different birth,—
And ever changing, like a joyless eye
That finds no object worth its constancy?
- Percy Shelley, To the Moon

a fragment pale for weariness
disillusioned in the fray
passion dissipates within a flame
fighting for a form
of some perceived control

she awoke inside a polished house
beneath the shadow-wake of obscure prosperity
strung out but not so loose
as to disregard her self-constraint
for the mirror allowed concessions,
with the cycle steady stirred,
a small fraction curved and bent alert

but she moved the way she always had
so things remained as is
corkscrewed and loving nothing but to live
she appeared near the distal zone
avoiding the fury of the quake
upright upon a precipice
peering out over imagined maria lakes
competent and skillful, she stood alone
waiting for no one

over time, space witnesses an isolated few
who torn between split-line connections
suffer greatly under ruse

to speak in subtle metaphor
of a girl she thought she knew
amplified in air removed
from the vacuum rolled out in pain
with her gaze upon the moon


When

awoken space
in defiance of the four
crises of moral order
searching for completion
beyond the earthly door
it eradicates the local,
deep depletion of totality
between seamless drops
of honey, suckled
from the people we love

we know this man
we are him
when we were then

a meshed, abstract resemblance
of plastic coated meaning
all about the time
we were on our way
but if there was a time to go
now is the time to stay

to peel away the strips
that keep the phrase divided
to lacerate the walls
of capture that leave
us tripped up hiding

we popped the pod
to lay down memories
of advanced grit + openness
a cell turned inside out
that slings us back past rapture

when you articulate your wants
and tell me what you need
we’ll come back from waiting
to fill the holes + pull
the weeds


Quicksilver Girl

a room full of elbows
bent and kneading through
on New York Avenue
stuck with the scent of
another burning sunset
a reference point
built on the taste of her lips

spirited sublimation
that drops the heart like a beat
skinless percussion
beneath her unfastened feet
every day I'm growing older
the sound harder to hear
the belief in faithful waiting
for the right light to reappear

my tongue drifts
as the melody pairs
with the trial of discomfort
sending notes in a feedback
to make motion aware
to transcend
the slick weight of time upon
internal receiving
without her standing there

There is a tale retold:
that love is like a lost city,
the city that never was
a green beam glowing
you slowly move on

born to live
born to die
born to lose yourself in
this lonely fight


Roanoke, You're Gone

a whisper with dawn
on the eastern seaboard
your fingers slide along
my side

I tingle in the
dust of morning light

shifted lover come quick
lay me down and
break me in
remove the lid
in brief
breathless contact
so slight against my skin

I lose all purpose
my frame bends
a momentary lapse
in pattern recognition

I'm crying out
pull back the sheet
can't you see it's blinding me

sleeping sound
sinking in
to cushions fit full
of feathers that fall
around me in a dream
those phantom hands of yours
are make believe

Roanoke, you're gone
you came and went
they're telling stories of a love
that never existed

back against the ocean
the tide rolls in
a wild force wraps
around my hips
and pulls me down
toward a recollected end
my fingers fight to anchor
in the sand
but it swallows me whole
just like you do
and only then do I remember


The Highway

the lines look identical
9 days in
he feels it all
cut clean
and running thin
quells the coming storm
then leaves
on a second-guessed trajectory
threaded through a burning seat
unalleviated tendencies
to flee the city after…

shuffling back and forth
main-lining all experience
muffling a choked throat
suppressing nervousness
under the heat of thirty bulbs
two strip lights, face aglow
standing on stage
stark and exposed
a grip on his neck
fingers tight to check the sweat
water dripping from the loft above
drenched in the comfort of familiar pools
and an empty bottle of alcohol

a driving force
whispers to his feet
so he gets up
craving to be free
he shifts against the grey
and plays to empty eyes
along that lost highway
the darkness settles in
filled with never and no hope
it'll be a long time
before he finds his way back home

the grit that churns on grainy steel
piercing every vein
waning, dies his confidence
he turns to rust and falls away

he stumbles back
to that dingy brick bar
plucked from fumbling travels
along unknown roads
a spun return
situated to the final track
he bends his fingers back
moves slow to the stage
singing all of doom
about that lost highway

skinned, shaven
he stands again
beneath the power of thirty light bulbs
unholy hands
still stark and exposed
a silent room
as if everyone knows
that when he’s gone
he’s gone for good


Immediate Cues

midpark, seething
you walk to find me

I'll be reading a paperback
completely disconnected
thumbing through the pages
absent and unaffected

prodding like a wanton shape
with a smile-on, innocent face
I'm all in white
yet, you don't know
I won't look over my shoulder

the line, what is
a pattern printed on my back
calling out to come foward
just a little bit more
my wall with painted symbols
of tommorow afternoon

the loser liquidated space
and gave me room to live in
never call that shine
a right I didn't put in time for

you're decorated cool + clean
against the blue screen sky
I snap a photo to remember
what this will mean tonight

from the body of alone
holding on for my own
the words come from a note
written in the fold

ooh, the solitude of every
blade of grass
you stick your fingers in the ground
they call that style and class

when you leave without a sound
like a moderated fader
there's a secret wish for tears
in the pool of daily bathers

you're looking at me loose
because I'm losing all my color
free from repeated tendencies
and a shifted point of view

a quickly toggled turn
of the stick said she
alright girl you're straight
but you'll never find me


Hardwired

I back myself into a corner
and my body folds into
the crease where the two
walls meet
as my skin slips from the bone
it blends in with each layered
coat of paint
that feeds the feeling
in the room
I loose my limbs in the fabric
of the ambient mood
lonesome like the eyes that
stare into the pattern
and forget there ever was a reason
for moving forward
toward the door and out
into the world
where the ceiling lifts its lid
unto the piercing sky
an unrelenting emptiness
full of stars reeling back
the time

I'm probably romanticizing
the stellar death of atoms
but I'm just trying to decide
what to do when the daylight breaks
and the moment
can no longer be captured
acceptance is relevant
only when measured against the
length of a walking stick
that's travelled much further
than these two legs have gone
thus far
loving in a second what I want
for a lifetime
a slow, purposeful development
that is just beyond my understanding
a tipping glass of water
placed along a slanted ledge
when entropy takes hold
I'll be a perched fool with a wet lap

perfection is irrelevant,
but the ideal is like a coin that
won't stop spinning
because my index finger snaps
to flick it back across the table

I pray one day that arthritis slips in
and crushes this incessent movement
that surges through my blood,
I fanticize about the twisting of
my muscles into geometric
atrophied knots, quelching the motion
that makes this music

the vacuum silences
be quiet, be still
we try so hard and gain to loose
we get up
we move

we try so hard
we try so hard
we try so hard


As the Rotary Turns

I pull the key out from under the mat
then twist the knob as I turn the deadbolt back
a candle faintly burns at rest on
the kitchen counter
how can anyone find what they are looking for?

all these plants are dying
sadly stretching for the light
sometimes I lie
and say "don't worry, they'll be just fine"
because the music that is playing sings
so sweetly to them in the dark

in the next room,
the bed is unmade and various articles of clothing
are strewn about the floor
this place is a mess
why I didn't I see it before?

it was blurred behind the warm shadow
of our bodies
just a face in place of loneliness
like a dreamless veil I mistook for a good night's sleep

but I'll wake up

I extend my limbs along the length of time,
fold my hands behind my head and close my eyes

the ceiling I picture in my mind is ornate and shameless, it's design is dripping wax pulling at the corners of my smile as the air chills my teeth I freeze and coalesce into a museum figurine waiting for the pressure to split a crack

in this grand mysterious vision of my future life, denial dissolves and the image rejuvenates in flight, quickly calling the song changes key on a greater scale than you and I


In the Field of What is Frightening

a lady of the night
restless, intriguing
eyes pass over
her figure and go blind
along her slender silhouette
her fingers send
terror slowly fleeting
she will breathe lies into your mouth
with the touch of her tongue
sucking the blood out of
everything you’ve ever known
the eponymous hunter
snatches up her prey
a caravan of men
carried off into the
silent city
lost beneath the bridge
          haunted
          frenzied
hypnotic manipulation
her vacant illusion maddens
the crest, twisting
their screams in straightjackets
past pathological conclusions
they gather in mass confession
their dwindling strength
drops them to their knees
in a crash of depression, her
unstoppable force pierces
like an incurable shadow knife of motion

she glides forward
vacant-eyed and reaching out
like a mirror bent backward
her elusive touch
stroking the tender space
along the reigns

and to think a doctor followed her
around in her youth with a
stethoscope


Interference

"You haven’t been on this side of things!"
her voice desperate and shrill
shaking at the same frequency as her body,
interfering with her position.
"You don’t understand and you
don’t care. You never listen."

He stood staunch in the kitchen, trying
to ignore his native inclination to
lean back against the counter and
stare up at the ceiling. This time
he didn’t.

Instead, he surveyed
her face, as each tear crossed the
threshold of her bottom eyelid,
spilling over the edge in
small but violent waves.
Her silk lashes glistening,
aggregating with one another.

Per habit he kept his silence
suspended in the room, flooded
with hormones exacerbating the
deleterious mood of
a recycled argument that had
dug its heels into the floorboards
years before.

"Have it your way. Take your swollen tongue
to the grave. There is no resolution with you."
Quips of intimacy flake like skin and
float along the trajectory of
the air-conditioned drafts emitted
from the vents.

Stubborn self-validating
blame, fortifying deficiencies in
communication with condescending
threats and ultimatums.
She cried herself a path of tears
into the bedroom that they shared.

His laconic voice enervating her past
the point of no return. "It can’t go on
like this much longer. We must
talk about this or agree not to
talk at all."

A tender plea, her poignancy,
completely lost
on him.


Glass Box, Broken

these insistent
small talk milestones
in dual occupied elevators
the useful numbness of
no cross back speak
protests against the future
tugging on elaborate layers
of an infinite mirror
conversant reflections
hollow in themself
a peeled recession
full plot determined
by lapsed transgression

the forward march is on sabbatical
clairvoyance has taken leave
would-be people sound of static
convoluting open frequencies
squat shifts within a frame
hung among the cables
the inert panel
abreast along the shaft
corresponding levels of influence
sway under false forbearance
ensnared between floors
cement board room enjambment
lacking entwined parallel moments
coming closer to the
other side –

to enter vying for new life


Paltering

“Tell me a story,” she asked as she swaddled herself in anticipation hoping for an elongated lie to conclude the circuit of every open-ended conduit. She’d been guessing for far too long now.

| It’s distilled in a small factory on the periphery of your vision. It’s a sight developing in the distance, in the dark theatre of existence, confessing like a quarter-choked motor in sync with despair. You see this setting is like salt in a wound; an opaque eye with one finger inside, almost consumed. |

There is a broken flight of stairs, ever rising toward callous habitation, a place where no one can find her.

| Here, in this factory, feelings manufacture dreams against relentless will. They breed flowers atop of nightmares. |

She imagined even more like a city in full bloom, gracious open space and subdued agoraphobic tendencies. She recalled the false opinions of her father, who always knew just what to do.

Don’t answer back… leave it be, he always said, if you pick at it enough it will scar. Counsel not limited to scabs for a slow return to memories will burn them all to ash. You’ll find static if you turn the dial too much.

Don’t answer back… leave it be, he always said.

“Where will she go after the factory?” she wondered out loud, her muffled voice caught in the gummy air appropriating every particle in the room.

| She never leaves. She fears the calling of a cold frontier. She lies in waiting, speaks in tongues, and drinks her beer. |

It was fear that paralyzed her; in pain her feet cultivated roots that dug into the floorboards beneath her shoes. She slipped the creek to write truth clean. At an early age, baptism drowned her future in disbelief.

Swallowed by unsung phrases from every love that passed, she cast a shadow over reward in favor of solitude, to leave the introduction in a clause all to its own where the comfort of silence is met with unspoken words.

If you can shake the leaves free – they’ll die and decompose and never having moved you’ll still experience the sensation of growth. A grounded capsule buried deep beneath tear-ridden soil forces the build up of oxides, which in time will rust the dirt.

“What happens next? Tell me more.”

| She sits and waits. |

“Why?”

| Because she is a caricature of yourself. The story is you; the lines are your veins. The blood is circulating out of your mouth into the grail, and the viscous spit you ejaculate wets your lips to tell this story to a mirror reflecting the truth back to your face. |


Flaking Pages

the truth you wanted
waiting for clearance
joyous + dreaming of vocal liberation
the sensation of water dripping from the fountain
liquid consummation
still in the sunlight
stunned + shining through soft particles
dusting every sentence in shimmering echoes
slipping slowly from her parted lips
the final moment...

unspecific speculation
showering over emotional experience
she leaps into the street
forgetting what she really needed

midnight passes + the phamplets
blowing in the wind
reflect the thoughts inside her head
she rolls her cufflinks back to grab at them
later- in the future,
she will be glad the wind took them
broken perfection left her flesh open for release
a footnote for a reference diminishing
in the presence of something bigger than fear + regret
the insignificance of light letdowns
along the path forged in lines selfmade

who did you draw them for?

bound by goodbyes + farewells coming
you can borrow all my hope for the future
you can borrow my future to make sense of the past


Night Tide

slipshod

          sling sad eyesight

a vexed + crooked glance
her concentric mortal coil
unravels in my hand
dulcet humming, “Quicksilver, be still”
in the lamplight
the slow warp of time
steady + true
like your hand on the wire
smiling in the sun

you spit chemicals to clean my headache
you drip sound over the insufferable buzzing
          of interminable thoughts

she holds the token for one moment
every knuckle knocked
fingering the details

a curtsy in the foyer
daubing acid on her lips
I bend to lick the language
from her kiss

at 2:am,
the new goes dark
her warlike drum
deluded siren drone
seductive polyrhythm
cascades down

a costal refrain
when the wave-halos
reign over our insignificance

…but when you wade out
you’ll be surprised
by how little the echo
in the background
moved you


L-Realm

enclosed inside the patio
a window-box suite
metamorphic changeling
from grey to shifting green
the static street
is raining upside down
the curb is bending backward
over hallowed ground
a worm beneath the surface
taken by the sound
squirming in his skin
under levels in rhythm
with his fallen father
his flesh is flaking
it begins to smell
I know I shouldn't be here
but I can't leave now

empowering small spaces
emergence, coming home
the layers decay around us
a tonal breakdown on the corner

THIS   IS   DANGEROUS

         I must see for myself
         I must know his true form
         I won't rely on what I have been told

a schism in the track
distorted elongation of
an outstretched neck
his nostrils flair to sniff
for an estate he never had
upon which motion
his head cracks open
to let his master in